Uber Bad

The Ten Worst Uber Horror Stories

Uber recently threatened to use the personal data of a tech journalist to destroy her because she dared criticize them. Par for the course, says Olivia Nuzzi.

11.19.14 9:31 AM ET

Uber pridefully wears its evil reputation the way other on-demand ride-sharing services wear fuzzy pink mustaches.

Since its founding (as UberCab) in 2009 in San Francisco, Uber has become more than just a success, it has become a household name with operations across hundreds of cities in dozens of countries and a subsequent valuation of $18.2 billion. Uber is so powerful, with its massive profits and army of lobbyists and former White House staffers, that it can bulldoze into a place where it is explicitly illegal and start operating there regardless.

Some say Uber's Top Car status has led to some bad behavior, like recently floating the idea of using the personal information of a female tech journalist to destroy her because she dared to criticize them. However, Uber has not only never seemed to give a damn about the informational or physical well-being of its users, but it is often openly antagonistic towards them.

With that, Behold! The Top Ten Uber Horror Stories*:

1. An Uber driver tragically struck and killed a 6 year old girl and Uber denied responsibility.

In January 2014, Syed Muzaffer, who drove for Uber, killed a 6 year old girl in San Francisco. Uber claimed Muzaffer was not technically logged onto the Uber app at the time of the accident, meaning they weren't responsible for it. Nevertheless, the family of the little girl sued the company for wrongful death. "The companies did not cause this tragic accident," Uber's attorneys said in response.

To make matters worse, it turned out Muzaffer already had a reckless driving conviction under his belt –– something Uber apparently did not uncover or deem disqualifying during their background check process. 

2. An Uber driver assaulted a passenger and it turned out he had a felony conviction, despite passing the background check.

Daveea Whitmire, a driver working for UBERx, the low-cost version of Uber, was charged in June 2014 with a misdemeanor battery count after he pulled over, told his passenger to get out, and then, when the passenger tried to take a photo of the car, punched him in the hand and elbowed his chest.

Pretty bad, right? It gets worse!

It turned out Whitmire had multiple drug-related felony convictions and was at the time of the assault on probation for a separate battery charge.

Uber, which claims to thoroughly background check all of their drivers, told The Daily Beast at the time that the driver had passed the company's background check process and also that their background check process was top of the line.

3. An Uber driver choked his passenger in a racist attack and Uber's CEO was mad at the media about it.

When writer and activist Bridget Todd Tweeted at Uber that she had been choked by her driver in Washington D.C. in what seemed like a racially motivated attack, Uber publicly responded by telling Nitasha Tiku of Valleywag that it "was provoked by the passenger."

How the company privately responded, however, was quite different: CEO Travis Kalanick emailed his press team to criticize the media for thinking that Uber might be responsible for things that happen inside of Ubers, especially with "these incidents that aren't even real in the first place."

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4. An Uber driver went on an anti-gay, ant-American rant before physically assaulting his passenger.

In March 2013 in Washington, D.C., Seth Bender got in the Uber he ordered and shortly thereafter committed the sin of burping. This displeased Bender's driver, Hamza Abu Shariah, who allegedly began ranting that he "'hates Americans and homosexuals' and a number of other derogatory comments." A complaint filed by Bender claimed that after he exited the vehicle (can't imagine it was a long trip, even if it felt that way!) Shariah spit in his face and slapped him.

5. Woman claims Uber driver kidnapped her, Uber claims "inefficient route."

When a woman tried to take UberX home from a party in October 2014, a driver instead took her on a wild, twenty-mile ride ending in an abandoned lot, Valleywag's Sam Biddle reported.

All the while, "the driver ignored her questions and directions. They finally arrived in a dark, empty parking lot in the middle of the night, despite her repeated protests. When the tried to exit the car, her driver locked the doors, trapping her inside. Only when she caused a commotion and screamed did he finally return her home." The ordeal lasted for "over two hours."

In response to hearing her story, Uber apologized for the "inefficient route" and partially refunded her fare. 

 6. Uber driver allegedly verbally and physically abuses passenger, Uber neglects to even apologize.

When an Uber driver began cursing at James Alva, Alva became suspicious that he was not legitimate and asked him to verify his name (while using Uber, you can see your driver's name on the app, and drivers can see your name on theirs). The driver, Alva told PandoDaily's Carmel Deamicis, refused and instead asked Alva if he was Mexican, and then called him "a dirty Mexican faggot."

Alva said that after reporting the incident to Uber, he talked to the company's San Francisco community manager Matthew Hearns who declined to so much as apologize and didn't request further details about what happened.

7. Rape allegations against Uber driver.

In December 2012, a 20 year old Washington, D.C. resident left a bar and took an Uber home. During the trip, she later told police, the driver made advances which she ignored. When she got out of the car, she alleged the driver grabbed her from behind, knocked her to the ground causing her to hit her head on concrete, and then raped her.

Prosectors decided not to pursue charges against the accused.

8. Uber driver accused of "fondling" female passenger

A Chicago woman filed a lawsuit in March 2014 alleging that after her Uber driver began driving the wrong way, she moved to the passenger seat to help direct him, at which time he began assessing her appearance and making romantic advances. According to the suit, the driver's behavior became more aggressive until he "repeatedly fondled" the woman's "legs, groin area and breasts." When the woman threatened to call the police, the driver tried to make her get out of the car.

Uber did their part to help remedy the situation by deactivating the driver's account.

9. Uber driver takes passengers on a "high speed chase".

When Ryan Simonetti and two of his colleagues embarked on an Uber trip in Washington, D.C., they got more than they bargained for.

When Simonetti noticed that a taxi inspector who had been talking to his Uber driver was following their car, he asked the driver why. First, the driver assured him that he was "not a real cop" and he shouldn't worry, but then the driver seemed to get worried himself. "I'm sorry, we're going to have to run this red light," the driver said, according to Simonetti.

The driver then got on the highway and started going "well above the speed limit," with the taxi inspector still in tow.

Simonetti and his friends said the driver was narrowly dodging other cars and refusing to slow down or let them jump out throughout their 8-10 minute ride.

When they were finally released, the Uber driver fled into Virginia.

10. An Uber driver harassed me and my then-employer, and then Uber lied to me.

In September 2013, I got in an Uber in New York, as I often do. Toward the end of the trip, the driver asked me if I had walked by Lincoln Center an hour previously, and then he took out an iPad and showed me a full length, close up picture of myself that he had taken.

When I told Uber, they apologized, offered me $20, and then fired the driver without my knowledge.

The driver then began emailing me, my then-employer, and PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy (who was this week threatened by an Uber executive for her critical reporting on the company) to ask for his job back.

When I asked Uber how the driver could have known my full name, they were adamant that they certainly didn't provide that kind of information under any circumstance. It would be a breach of privacy, they said.

But it turned out that was their policy.

Months later, while reporting about Uber, a company spokesperson told me that Uber drivers in most cities are required to be provided with passengers' information, including their full name. Meaning not only may a driver know where you live, work, or hang out, but they may have more than enough information to find you.

11. An Uber driver attacked his passenger with a HAMMER. 

How did I miss this one? Readers have reminded me that in September, 35 year old Roberto Chicas was bludgoned with A HAMMER by his UberX driver, Patrick Karajah. The attack left him hospitalized for three days with with a bloodied eye, which he was reprotedly in danger of losing, and fractured skull. Karajah was charged with two felony counts of assault and battery. 

Chicas' lawyer said at the time, "ther eal issue now is whether he's going to permanently lose his sight in his eye...Right now there's so much blood in his eye they don't know whether that's going to resolve. His skull is fractured. He's going to need reconstructive surgery on his face." 

It took Uber a week to refund Chica's ride. 

All of this, by the way, comes at $1 extra to you, unsuspecting passenger, because earlier this year Uber started charging a "safety fee."

*DID WE MISS SOMETHING TERRIBLE? Do you have an Uber horror story? Contact Olivia Nuzzi at Olivia.Nuzzi@thedailybeast.com